I was discussing with people recently (OK, truth: some poor, lost innocents who wandered past at work, and got caught listening to me) about how and why I first started the original version of this website - or more to the point, how I started writing publicly. I attempted to give them the non-fall-into-catatonic-stupor version - i.e. the abbreviated one - about deciding to take my thoughts onto the interwebs the day I turned 40.
This is correct in wording and intent, but there was a little bit more behind it than just "Oh Baby Cheeses, I'm 40, I'd better create a digital footprint, and embarrass myself as much as possible, quicksticks."***
The motivation was mainly about challenging my innate introversion, a little about finally throwing my writing out to see what real people thought of it, as opposed to the one person who couldn't avoid said ramblings due to a familial obligation to pretend to read it (yo, Mumsy), and finally because a friend had set up a Gratitude Challenge for herself and inspired me. She was doing one physical thing every day - every day - for a whole year to show her gratitude for the life she was lucky enough to have.
I decided that I would do this Challenge myself, in a slightly different way, by writing a Gratitude post each day. 365 days of gratitude, even when (as it turned out, especially when) I wasn't feeling particularly joyous, or pleased with life, or even outwardly particularly grateful. Days when I could cheerfully kick in the door of whatever cosmic being(s) may be out there, and say "listen, you clowns, I want a word - stop making life so ridiculously hard for us all. After all, we're only human. As in, dumb. Right? Right. Sorry about the door, please don't smite me with lightning, I'll see myself out, by the way I don't mind granting an exception for anyone whose name rhymes with Rabbott, or retrospectively, Bitler".
I actually did manage it. I even kept posting occasionally about my grateful state of mind after the year was up; they're all here as part of this incredibly wittily titled section of the site now.
But it's been a long time between drinks, as they say. I in fact don't say that, because I like wine, and therefore in fact try not to leave it too long between drinks at all, because life is short, you never know when you will be run down by a bus, and there's a LOT of good wine out there. Which is entirely irrelevant, and I've drifted off topic as usual, except talking about booze usually attracts a certain subsection of my followers immediately, irrespective of the rest of the post's blather.
What I'm ACTUALLY trying to say is that I haven't written a gratitude post in a long time. This isn't a good thing, because what's been made clear to me of late is just how easy it is to confuse happiness with gratitude, and to assume one must be in the midst of experiencing the former, in order to understand or achieve the latter.
This is bollocks.
What that year of being grateful taught me above all else is this. Happiness and gratitude do not necessarily go hand in hand. If they do, I'd probably call it bliss or euphoria, but it's actually, for us frowny, sensible adults, quite rare. Instead, being grateful for what and who we have, the experiences we are given, the lessons we are taught, shine through at moments of the greatest sadness, anger, even despair, and teach us just how precious happiness is. It may take days, weeks or even years to recognise the truth of this, but eventually we will see, with absolute certainty, looking back, at X point in time, how grateful we should have been, and hopefully now are, for the gift of insight we were given.
Bluntly, I had very little happiness over the weekend. That is truly hard to say, but it's a fact. I was unhappy. I had moments of hiccupy, chest-cracking sadness. I had anger, to the point of wanting to commit grievous bodily harm to an individual for their seeming thoughtlessness in a situation of stress and sorrow. I was in physical pain, and, as tends to consequentially happen when my body is not behaving, my black dog slipped his leash and went running off round my mental park, barking and howling. I spoke with my father, whose grave illness is so overwhelming I am getting unbelievably good at ostriching the topic when asked about it. But I could not avoid hearing both his suffering, his fear and uncertainty. I saw a beloved friend, one of the most giving people I know, in a state of pain and confusion which is only increasing.
The Bluebird of Happiness, as I remarked to a friend, was well and truly back in Bluebird of Bitterness territory, and any attempts at landing on my shoulder and singing a happy tune would undoubtedly have ended in me giving it a lesson in just how unlucky it is for a bird to crap on someone, despite beliefs within the Jewish faith to the contrary, as there's no good luck in having your feathers used in a new and interesting headpiece for the racing season.
But as I lie here now, post Weekend of Whoah, mulling over this pile of Prussian blue plumage-related poo, and daring that bloody BOB to whistle anything other than Johnny Cash's 'When The Man Comes Around', I recognise the following self-evident truths.
Despite all the sorrow, all the anger, the truly heart-shattering words, encounters, and elements that made up the last 72 hours, I couldn't say I didn't find gratitude in them... nor grace.
Because both were present in so many small gifts I am grateful for.
I have gratitude for my Dad's absolute glee at Collingwood winning a game of footy. He hates my team, but he was thrilled they got one over the Cats, and made a special point of telling me to pass his 'congratulations' on to a certain Dread Pirate. Consider it passed, DP. I'm grateful for this because he felt like hell, but he wanted to talk, and talk about silly things, in between that horror cough which frightens both him and me.
I have so, so much gratitude I was able to spend time with my beautiful friend, surrounded by her marvellous extended family, who care for her in a determined, and no-nonsense way, ensuring she is comfortable and safe. I am grateful I got to see and feel again her extraordinary concern for others, and to see my gorgeous lovely, part of her family, the Princess Sar, whom I feel gratitude for every day, simply because she never stops seeing the wonderbubble possibilities and shininess of life.
I am grateful the person whom The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant refers to as my wife answered my text on Saturday night of "Going to kill someone. Probably TMWVRDT. Having wine. It's helping, but need you too because I don't want to go to gaol, and trying REALLY hard not to murder The Man". She made me laugh, we both scared The Man, I did not kill him, and there are now even more conversations that make him want to block his ears and go "la, la, la, la, safety word, safety word!!!" (OK, maybe a little bit of happiness crept in there).
And I am so, so, grateful The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant put up with the entire weekend's worth of snotty, ugly, crying, yelling, Parky-pretzel legs, dyskinesia, flu-fever hot and cold leftovers, normal Kato psychosis, and rearranging the entire house because I wasn't coping with either the Bluebird of Listen, Mate, I'm Close To Stabbing You In Your Sleep Because You Snore Like Nothing Human, Then Crying Lots Because I'll Have To Wash The Sheets Myself And Put Your Body In The Wheelie Bin Without Help, or the Black Hound Of The Bastardvilles.
Gratitude comes in a lot of forms, shapes and sizes.
Today, mine comes in the form of some simple words.
I am grateful for those who love me. I am grateful for the gifts of patience and light and yes, sarcasm they give me. I am grateful even as I am damning the world for its unfairness to these people I love - these good, good people - who are suffering the wrath of fate's dice rolling a zero, which is a seeming impossibility, as I chop garlic and parsley for my Oven Roasted Bluebird of Bitterness with a very sharp knife.
There is no WAY that bird is getting a free ride out of this one.
It should just be grateful I'm not invoking Matt Preston, his pursed cat's bum mouth and really ugly purple suits.
MasterGrateful; I reckon that's got legs. Marco Pierre White would look rather fetching in a blue-feathered chef's hat.
Now that'd make me grateful... and happy.
***Although this has been achieved with a great deal of aplomb and success, if success = totes embarrassment.